The Surface Transportation Board could issue its decision on the merger of the Canadian Pacific and Kansas City Southern railroads as early as Feb. 27.
DAVENPORT, Iowa – The Federal Surface Transportation Board is expected to issue its decision on approving or denying the Canadian Pacific-Kansas City Southern Railway merger this quarter. This decision could arrive as early as next Monday, February 27th.
Monday marks the end of a 30-day waiting period after the council’s Office of Environmental Analysis released its final report on the impact of the proposed merger. If approved, it would be the first major rail merger since the 1990s.
The final environmental impact statement studied the changes the merger would make to the rail system, covering 8,600 miles of track in the United States and connecting Mexico to Canada.
Overall, the report found that most of the merger’s potential negative impacts would be “negligible, minor and/or temporary.” This includes impacts on level crossing delays and emergency vehicles. However, it found that train noise associated with increased rail traffic “would cause adverse impacts on many residences and other noise-sensitive locations”.
The largest increase in rail traffic is expected to span between Sabula, Iowa and Kansas City, Missouri, with that section of the railroad seeing about 14.4 additional trains per day.
Scott County is expected to be worst affected by the noise, of all counties along the railroad from Webb County, Texas to Cook County, Illinois. With the merger, Scott County would have 1,016 noise-sensitive locations, compared to 593 without the merger. Noise sensitive places include homes, hospitals and schools.
The report also found that the merger would delay vehicles at 276 intersections rated by an average of 0.7 seconds. This increases the current average delay per vehicle from 4.0 seconds to 4.7 seconds.
In a redacted version, the report stated that Ripley Street in Davenport would have the largest average increase in delay for any level crossing at 7.3 seconds. However, in the final report, this finding was deleted.
Perry Street in Davenport has been identified along with three other intersections that would decrease the level of service, or traffic flow, from LOS A to LOS B. The crossing would have an average delay increase of 5.4 seconds, the highest of the four. Ripley Street was also originally in that category, with the highest rise.
Additionally, the report said there are 73 intersections through the railroad that have no alternate route for emergency services because they lead to dead-end streets. In Iowa, which includes crossings at Bettendorf, Buffalo, Camanche, Clinton, Davenport, Fredonia, LeClaire, Muscatine, Pleasant Valley, Princeton, Riverdale, Sabula and Seymour.
In terms of rail safety, the largest increase in the number of accidents, such as derailments or other accidents, would occur between Muscatine and Ottumwa. Without merger, that section has 0.11 accidents per year, but that would increase to 0.43. This equates to one every 9.4 years to one every 2.3 years.
“As noted in Section 18.104.22.168, Environment Affected, 99.9 percent of incidents during the five-year review period resulted in no injuries or deaths,” the report said. “OEA expects that under the proposed acquisition, the majority of accidents would continue to be minor and only a small percentage would have human health impacts:
The OEA says there will be an increase in hazmat transportation on 141 of 178 rail segments, or about 5,802 miles of rail lines, in 16 states, including Iowa, Illinois and Ohio, where 38 Norfolk Southern boxcars were recently derailed, pouring toxic chemicals. However, the report found that the number of hazardous materials releases would remain low. Across all segments of the rail line where freight would increase, 12.88 releases per year are expected to occur with the merger, compared to 10.36 without. In the rail yards there would be 24.99 releases per year, compared to 23.50 without the merger.
The report recommends that the Surface Transportation Board require the new rail company to abide by the agreed agreements Canadian Pacific has made with several cities expected to face the highest increase in rail traffic.
Davenport settled for $10 million, Bettendorf and Muscatine both settled for $3 million, and LeClaire settled for $750,000.
On Friday, US Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), along with Representatives Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL-08) and Delia Ramirez (D-IL-03) asked the Surface Transportation Board to defer its merger decision under it completes a “more accurate assessment of the impacts of the merger on the Chicago region.”
In a letter to the president of the STB, the lawmakers wrote:
“The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) recently released by STB significantly understates the impacts of the meltdown. It relied only on data provided by CP and ignored more comprehensive models provided by Metra, the Chicago region commuter railroad whose tracks CP operates. We urge the STB to conduct additional analysis of the impacts of the meltdown on the Chicago region using models provided by Metra or by conducting its own independent models. This would more accurately assess impacts on Illinois communities, determine appropriate mitigation measures, and meet STB’s obligations under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
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